It’s time for the citizens of Fargo to wake up. Stories about crime, accidents, apartment overload, license without accountability are rampant.
Years ago, Fargo attorney Mark Friese issued a stern warning to the Fargo City Commission, the mayor and its administrator, Pat Zavoral. It was at a time when as usual, political know-it-alls were concerned about money going to the Police Department and Municipal Court from fines and other penalties.
It was a known fact that such revenues went directly to the general fund, but facts didn’t matter back then. Gary Stewart, and Wayne Solberg were the two best city attorneys that Fargo has ever had — I’m old enough to know. Their advice was ignored.
Here is the scenario that haunts Fargo to this day and has adversely affected cities across this state, including Home Rule Cities. Traffic and criminal penalties were set mostly by exercise of Home Rule. Fargo at the time had the highest traffic penalties of any jurisdiction in the state. The Fargo judges did not hesitate to use the maximum where warranted.
The commission, with all of the finesse of a bull in a China shop, decided in its wisdom to literally double the highest fines in the state. Friese told them if they did that he’d take them to the Supreme Court by due process and show them what they proposed was an abuse of procedure. I was at the meeting and joined him in telling them what the commissioners proposed was a bad idea and the city would pay a steep price. It was an obvious revenue producer of the worst kind.
Well the city ignored OUR advice and proceeded to substantially increase the penalties for traffic and other offenses, The Vogel Law firm, represented by Friese, brought its threatened lawsuit. Not only did the Supreme Court side with the plaintiff, the city was ordered to decrease its penalties anywhere it exceeded state law. It exceeded state law in most categories and to say the city of Fargo took a big financial hit would be an understatement.
To this day, the city is bound by the foolish actions of the past, and even though the state as I understand it has authorized cities to increase traffic fines, no known action has been taken by Fargo. (Boy, I sure hope I’m wrong on this part.)
Many still say that traffic penalties serve no legitimate purpose and as I voice from the past I say, “They’re full of it.” Penalties are indeed a deterrent if utilized properly — and those who say it’s nothing but a revenue producer for the city have their heads stuck where the sun does not shine.
Notice the number of vehicles with all-tinted windshields where you cannot see the driver from any angle? Woo, they are unlawful in absence of special state permit. Notice the number of injuries and property damage IN THE CITY, where cars and trucks are tipping over, running into houses and businesses. Notice the number of injuries and possibly death because drivers and passengers are too damned lazy to put on their seat belts. Notice the failure of the city or its official newspaper to list violations of city ordinance. If anyone thinks publication of the names is not a deterrent, then you can buy some air in my yard cheap.
What seemed like common sense recording in my years on the bench now seem outdated — THEY ARE NOT. Friese and the Vogel Firm predicted the outcome and the city has done nothing the improve the safety of its citizens.
We have so much reported serious crime, which the city admits can’t be handled properly because of lack of police officers, that the former minor crimes that are still more likely to impact each of us, can’t be addressed for the same reason.
Every other damned year I read that the FPD is (NEARLY) up to strength.
Bulletin: Those in charge should get off their sorry behinds and fully fund a fully staffed Police Department. Don’t say it can’t be done because if you do, then Fargo needs a new person to fill your seat.
Onto another subject. Have you driven around Fargo’s new housing sites and seen the “No Vacancy” signs. Ha, no wonder, that’s because there aren’t any. The city gives tax breaks to developers to build skyscrapers, luxury apartments, condo’s, etc. that the average person or family cannot afford. Yet the developers present proposals that are simply rubber-stamped by those who should be making tough decisions.
Fargo Citizens — wake up!
Remember the PonyLand debacle? Drive by and check out that wonderful development (i.e., an eyesore that looks good for no one).
Notice the “scaled back” drawing of the Newman Center proposal to be built next to North Dakota State University. If that’s scaled back, I’d like to know what the original plan would have been. The system works like this: Have a project, overprice the hell out of it. Come back with a scaled-down version (you know, the one the developers really wanted in the first place). Then the decision-makers approve it at the expense of the local homeowners and taxpayers.
The city of Fargo’s idea of protecting local neighborhoods needs new leadership and direction. The time to control the monied interests is now. Gee, maybe Gov. Burgum might want to take a position on this. Oops, he has; it’s “his” Taj Mahal that will blanket the view in downtown Fargo.
While I’m on the subject, it’s time to make sure we have adequate staffing and facilities for the Fire Department and Street Department. Their men and women put in long hours — dedicate themselves to making our city safe and secure. Staffing should come first. Why? Because it’s in the best interests of the residents who may not have the voice of the fat cats —those with more money than they can spend — and for whom the city exists.
Stay tuned! More to come. I’m going back into business.